Does anyone really believe President Bush wants to spy on innocent old ladies or any other group of innocent Americans? Does anyone -- besides the loony left and unwitting dupes they have convinced -- really believe President Bush has a sinister desire to consolidate executive power, make himself a dictator and eviscerate the Fourth Amendment? These are some of the things the knee-jerk opponents of President Bush's selection of Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to head the CIA apparently believe.
Gen. Hayden is considered to be one of the architects of the administration's NSA warrantless surveillance program, so critics and skeptics of that program have jumped in to oppose him for that reason alone, though other objections have also surfaced, such as that a military leader shouldn't run a civilian intelligence organization.
Political leaders, even certain Republicans like Sen. Arlen Specter, have promised to exploit the Hayden confirmation hearings as an opportunity to inquire into the propriety of this controversial program.
Like some other people, it occurred to me that President Bush is more than ready to have a public debate over his NSA program. Otherwise, he surely wouldn't have chosen a man whose intimate connection to the program is well known and vulnerable to political posturing.
I, too, welcome this debate, though proponents of the program begin at a bit of a disadvantage because security concerns preclude them from producing evidence that would vindicate their decision to implement the plan. But philosophical and practical arguments, apart from the specifics of evidence in particular "searches" will be fair game.
I won't rehash all the arguments for and against the program, except to say that its opponents have shamelessly mischaracterized it as "domestic" spying when one of the parties to the communications must be outside the United States. They've tried to create the impression that the privacy of innocent civilians will be violated in these "broad sweeps." And they've portrayed the program as an important part of an overall pattern of the Bush administration to trample on civil liberties and expand presidential powers.
But the only communications intercepted under the program are those where at least one party is a terrorist, a suspected terrorist or has ties to terrorists. Absent cases of mistaken identity, which can also occur with warrants, it's hard to imagine that many innocent people will be the subject of such surveillance.